I awoke in DC early Thursday morning and despite the clear skies that followed the severe thunderstorms that night, my flight was canceled. I didn’t know that until I reached the airport – having failed to check my flight status before heading out the door that morning. Delta/NWA booked me on a relatively similar flight and I arrived in La Crosse, WI only an hour or so later than I had planned. Flying into La Crosse, I knew why they call our land God’s country – the land is covered in life – forests of trees, streaming rivers and serenity… just beautiful.
Rhonda and Ma came to pick me up at the airport and we went to Rocky Roccoco’s for Lunch. If you didn’t know, Rocky’s is Chicago Style pizza and one of the treats that I look forward to when I go home. It’s a wonderful feeling to come home and have a nice lunch with your Ma and your sister. I dropped Ma and Rhonda off in Galesville and took Ma’s car about 100 miles north to Eau Claire, WI.
I arrived at Pat and Brenda’s about 1:30 or so and found Brenda, Samantha (the graduating one) and Anna (Sam’s friend) hard at work in preparation for the party Saturday. I was greeted with hugs and dog kisses (from the dog Maui) and tried to help as I was directed to.
Thursday night a friend (Stephanie) was the speaker at the Eau Claire Pacific Group of Alcoholics Anonymous and I was in attendance. Stephanie did a great job sharing her experience, strength and hope and afterward we all all headed to Perkins for a very late meal, I’d say there were about 20 folks in attendance it was good fellowship.
Friday during the day Pat and I ran errands for his wife and generally helped to prepare the house for all the guests. That evening was the graduation ceremony. We (Pat, Brenda, Stephanie and Anna) were all in attendance for what seemed to be the longest graduation commencement ceremony – ever… The Assistant Principal spoke, they inducted people from the classes of 1945, 55 and 62 into some special recognition group, students talked, principals talked, songs were sung… and finally (2 hours later) they started to hand out diplomas to the 300+ students… when my niece Sam received hers we pleasantly left the building.
Saturday morning I had breakfast with my biological sisters daughters (or my nieces) Samantha and Tabatha at Perkins. I hadn’t seen either of these girls (women?) since my mother died about 5 years ago. They have both grown up so much and are so very different from the little girls that I used to spin in circles and make smell my socks in my memory. We had a nice breakfast filled with moments of awkward silences and shy moments. I then drove Tabatha home all the way to Fall Creek before heading back to Chippewa Falls for the party.
Saturday’s party was preceded by temperatures that were in the low 50s and a rain that fell all day long. The party’s spirit threatened to abandon us before the actual festivities… nevertheless the family and friends arrived in the early afternoon and stayed into the evening. Family and friends tend to do that for people they love.
These types of events are always a double edged sword for me, I do get to see and spend great quality time with people that mean the world to me, and I get a chance to see folks that I don’t see very often – there are plenty of people that I don’t know that are there also and these events do seem to be an excuse for people to hang around and whine about life… sigh.
I’ve known Samantha since she was about 4 years old and I’ve been called “Uncle Jamez” almost since day 1… for a little while she and her brother called me “James and the Giant Peach” and I am grateful that that finally lost interest with them. Samantha has grown into a fine young woman and I have been amazed at her accomplishments, triumphs and journeys into adulthood. Right now I know she doesn’t know where she wants the future to lead her, but I hope when she chooses a path that that path leads her to a life as filled with loved ones as I’ve managed to assimilate.